I am compelled to write this response to your essay published by PREMIUM TIMES on October 13, 2017. Whilst I concede that “Of Paupers, Princes and the Terrible Danger of Overshadowing One’s Children” is an expression of your personal opinion, I would like to counter that opinion with mine in the hope of generating what could be a more nuanced debate on what it means to have a successful career in the Nigerian sense, for this is the gist of your essay.
You argue that rich families in Nigeria have not instilled the required discipline in their children, to groom them in such a way as to ensure that the children take over the family businesses or choose other select careers as they come of age. You further argue that rich children are conditioned to take their family wealth for granted and, being used to wealth, have chosen the easier avenue to wealth and fame, the entertainment industry. You finally argue that they should be compelled to desist from these career paths since they cannot, thereby, “build Nigeria.” This is just a summary.
First, the crux of your essay – that the “children of accomplished men [are] unable to rise above their father’s achievements or even come close” – is based on very bad mathematics, especially if your point is that these kids are primarily interested in “music, dance, deejay-ing, makeup artistry, cooking, interior designing, ownership of sex toy shops, acting, ownership of night clubs, organising of beauty pageants and music shows.” Your point has no factual bases and your sample population is statistically insignificant. This sample of rich kids who are now making waves in the entertainment scene is highly insignificant compared to Nigeria’s 200 million population size. Even if you want to make the argument that the demographic under focus is only Nigeria’s one percent elite class, we are still speaking of a two million population size. Your handful of cases – Davido, Falz, and others – remain outlier cases. They make for salacious case studies but they do not provide a true representation of the group in question.
I am compelled to write this to urge that if a repudiation of what appears to be drug-induced wastage of youthful energy on vices that put lives at risk must be made, it should be made based on facts and in a way that is respectful of all members of the society.
Second, I am shocked at the condescending way in which you addressed two sets of people: the so-called rich ‘men’ and their rich children. Your essay alludes to an unfounded assumption that the “fathers in struggling to get rich, never really raised these children for greatness” or “at best… just pampered them” and other such assumptions. Seeing as you have not cited a single source for these very profound and generalised statements, I am at loss as to how you could have come to these conclusions. On the one hand you call out, by name, those parents and children who you think have not met your standard of generational success. On the other, you praise a handful of those whose children are taking on their parents’ businesses and running with the family mandate. In both instances you are most condescending, sir. These are private lives and people are at liberty to choose what counts to them as success and, most certainly, what counts to them as viable career paths.
Thirdly, and related to the second point, is the question of what it means to have a career that can take on “hard issues” or “make real differences in places that could really advance society.” Artists and lawyers can both be social justice activists, for instance. And if an artist is primarily focused on feel-good music, why should that be a problem? In the huge global economy where the arts and sciences can thrive simultaneously, who gets to decide what is more important for children to choose as career paths? And zooming in on the so-called rich kids, who gets to decide whether theirs must be a career in “respectable professions or businesses?” Who is to decide that because Child A was privileged to be born into a rich family, she only has the option of becoming a “lawyer, or engineer, or economist or medical doctor or petroleum technologist, or IT Guru, or publisher?” Who is to decide that her desires to tap into a two-trillion-dollar global market tantamounts to yielding to the “allure of entertainment and blitz” instead of “a steady career progression” and refusing to pay the price for “being born with [a] golden spoon in [her] mouth?” Permit me to say that of all things in this world, the “black man” should have the liberty to decide whether he wants to be “a global entertainer” or a “physicist.”
In conclusion, and I am loath to have to make this disclaimer, neither my parents nor me belong to this Nigeria’s one percent. Yet I am compelled to write this to urge that if a repudiation of what appears to be drug-induced wastage of youthful energy on vices that put lives at risk must be made, it should be made based on facts and in a way that is respectful of all members of the society. I hope that Falz can hone his skills, if he so wishes, and that his chosen profession remains to him his own “respectable profession or business.”
Elor Nkereuwem, a pioneer standards editor at PREMIUM TIMES, is currently completing a doctoral programme in International Studies at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, Washington, DC.